VVP: Art 434 & Engl. 410

Website for Vision Voice and Practice: An Interdisciplinary Course in Art and Creative Writing

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Individual Projects, II

Art work of AJ Ranson

Art work of Jesse Greenwood

We did another round of individual student's work. Today visual works were presented by AJ Ranson and Jesse Greenwood and text based works presented by Kelsey Vandeventer and Daniel Austell.


They Fell

We're the wispy ones
that shudder at the light
under the covers, withholding our palms
but drawn to the flame, nonetheless.

Entrusted with reality
but unable to bear it, it remains
our craving, our necessity,
super-glued to our souls, a beloved parasite.

Nature has turned on itself,
a fissure of heart and mind,
so we must break the chains of death
and hallow the depths of hell.

- Kelsey Vandeventer


from "Watermelon Caves"

"Sweetie," she said. "Children don't know better. They are mean because they, they are self-conscious. They hurt others because they've been hurt." Of course, that was what everyone said.

He wiped his eyes with his sticky hands and began to gain composure.

"But why did they make fun of me?" he wailed. "Why do people have to say things like that?" Anger took hold of his being, reminding her of the man she once loved, and she became fearful. She blinked to hold back the tears.

"Jeff," she said, "The world is a place of awful things. People do things they shouldn't. All we can do is our best and forgive those who hurt us. If we don't--" She trailed off and stared at her left hand. It was barren, adorned with scars instead of rings.

- Daniel Austell

Friday, April 15, 2011

Individual Projects

Work of Veronica Burris

Work of Erin Vaughan

The students are starting to present individual portfolios. These are works from their individual practice that have been informed by the collaborative class. We started with two visual artists and three writers: writers Richard Gaffin, Christian Koons, and Maegan Taylor (below), and visual artists Erin Vaughan and Veronica Burris (above).

from "Pieces":

The door was cracked for him; he let himself in. She was sitting in the kitchen. She looked sick. Her cheeks were wet.

"What is it," Russell asked.

"I need to show you something," she said.


"Ok," she said. "Don't freak out."


"Come here."


She walked him into the bathroom. "My stomach started cramping out of nowhere," she said. "I was too scared to call an ambulance."

On the sink was a baby's leg. From heel to thigh it was the size of an eggplant, and of a similar bruised shade.

He look at her. She covered her mouth with her hands.

"Where's the rest," he asked.

She shrugged, started shaking her head, and started crying again all at once.

"What does that mean," he asked.

"There wasn't any."

He looked back at the leg. The top of the thigh, where it would normally attach, was covered by smooth skin. It looked like it grew as an independent unit. Fully intent on becoming only what it was.

"I need you to take it," she said.


She looked at him.

"What the hell."

"I don't know!" she cried.

He looked back at the leg.

"I just--" She was trembling. "I can't."

Russell's mouth opened, but he hesitated. She was sniffling. He asked her, "Is it mine?"

"Yes," she said. "It's ours." He looked at her. "But, Russell," she said, "I'm sorry," she said. "I can't."

"Ok," he said. "Ok."

- Christian Koons



The icon of the Virgin Mary holds a small,

grown man we believe is Jesus. A full, whole man,

proportional to ten

times less than his mother. Her halo and his cross

are at odds and there is no quick-smile-loving

embrace between them.

He has outgrown his hand-holding mother, her

holy gilded-glow sparkles in the daylight and

he, full God and full man,

cannot sleep in a house with her permeating

body-light and she weeps, weeps, weeps at his bloodshot

eyes but not his bloodied

prayers. Still, to the incarnate God, to Jesus the

Nazarite, his mother, who would not leave him

to his Father's work, who

is surely not the woman-judge of Israel,

has not driven a tent-peg through the temple of

a breathing man, and is not

even the one who hides bits of apple in her

pocket for hungry children, is the woman who

grew her Creator and

birthed, from her fleshy-imperfect womb, our savior.

And now she has no body (but a brand-new soul)

and is dead, blind, rotting

in her stone-rolled-close tomb. But he is the body

and the bread, the good that died young. Happy are

those whom you love, Lord, Lord, Lord.

- Maegan Taylor


Here’s to the Blues and Greens

When the housemaids scrub the floors they get the spaces in between. I appreciate that about them—it’s hard to get good help these days, to find people who give a damn about doing the small things. Their names all blend into each other though; so do their faces, the dark Spanish features running together until I can’t tell one from another. I also have a guy who does the garden, tending the flowers and things. I don’t recall what exactly is in there, or the guy’s name either.

The house is empty tonight. It often is these days, since the kids moved out, taking their groups of friends and their oppressively cheerful music with them. They were all popular in high school. I wasn’t popular in high school, and neither was their mom—the gene must be recessive or something. I got the family male-pattern baldness instead, and they say that skips a generation too. Once, not long after my wife left, I came home from a business trip to find a full-on rager going on at the house, the red-cup kind that I thought existed primarily on movie screens. I remember standing on the front lawn, looking at the way the multi-faceted window in the front door diffused the light from inside the house, like a stained-glass window in a cathedral. I remember hearing the bass notes pound out from inside, as if in my absence the house had gotten a heartbeat and an adrenaline shot. I remember hearing the voices from inside the house, voices of strangers, a crowd taking up a space reserved for individuals.

- Richard Gaffin

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spot Collaboration: Poems

On Tuesday, we showed the students a series of images from Google's image search. These images were of, respectively, a man sleeping, an Ikea bedroom set, a furniture warehouse, a factory, a forest, a forest during clear-cutting, a line drawing of a boy eating lunch, a plate of assorted fruit, a stack of thick-cut steaks (next to a steak knife standing on its tip), and a woman wearing a meat hat. Each of these images were shown for about forty seconds, and students were asked to write down their impressions ("first thought, best thought") as long as the image lasted. They could describe the image itself, or feelings and memories the image evoked, or whatever popped into their minds. Afterward, we randomly assigned students to groups of three, giving them twenty minutes to make out of the words they wrote down either a twenty-line poem or a ten-sentence paragraph. Below are the, ahem, meaty results.

The morning after, she wasn't there
Thank God I washed my pillowcase finally
The morning after, she wasn't there
Let me try sleeping in the drawer under the bed tonight
The morning after, she wasn't there
Jammed and packed and crowded, nowhere to move
The morning after, she wasn't there.

High walls give me and my father anxiety
The ceiling would make just anything echo
High walls give me and my father anxiety
The earth must look lovely from the sky, like clockwork
High walls give me and my father anxiety
If I was big enough, I'd sleep here, on top of the trees
High walls give me and my father anxiety.

I don't eat red meat
I think of human muscle when I look at raw meat
I don't eat red meat
It might be meat, it might be chocolate cake. Enjoy it
I don't eat red meat
In some cultures, meat headgear is a sign of the priesthood
I don't eat red meat.
Alabama, As Seen by God

I ain't got legs
But my mom makes a mean ham sandwich
I never had good lunches as a kid
I always wanted something sweeter
My mom wants me to be jealous
When I grow up

A finely groomed bed-chamber
Looks cold out of focus
Smoke & mirrors
to make it look bigger
I used to love
Now I smell the formaldehyde
That used to be blood
In its veins
And you're just laughing

The gentiles were told not to strangle meat
Because it would separate them
From the pagans

Why are you so dark?

You smell your worst
when you wake up in the morning,
like a sexy, Indian man
eating a cheese sandwich
and afterwards wanting to vomit.
In your celebrity bedroom
on a mattress spaceship
you realize you belong with
potatoes and gravy.
But, it's peanut butter & jelly time again.
Let's have a picnic!
Crustacean innards. Right now!
My mom made fruit salads
but mostly I like blood.
Eat it or die.
But make it yourself--it'll be cheaper
with a meat dagger.
Meat wood.
What the hell is this?
Tenderloin bonnet.
For Borges

Though it looks packed full,
the farm is gilded
under studio lighting.
Ugly, we destroy what is so orderly.
Cut open like a dried-up orange, no juices:
the murder of a fake home.
Calming room, congested tune, closed,
too clean to live in.
Would I rather be eating hair at lunch?
Why did the cool kids use paper bags?
I am home, past Chicago
sleeping in, alone,
reminded of how
I cut his heart out with a dull knife,
bloody freedom, consumption.
Whatever is in the middle
visits the sun
like an evergreen forest,
mass murder.
Different Shades of White

Only looking at the
American Northeast as far
as the eye can see.

Tendrils, but that was just my first
thought, the representation
is half eaten.

Pig-nosed boy, asleep in the style of
viking landscape art or

fruit that is neither ripe nor rotten,
smelling like anemone, feels
like home--too much space--
Are we selling a beauty
product? Anonymous
people and things which
are too neat and
organized to be ugly in appearance.

Why do you eat on a board
little lunchtime child?
Strange spots of orange, volcanic
in a way. Gooey South America:
no ice, but it looks cold.

You were once an animal Ricky
Martin--¡comida! ¡comida!
There are mints that come from this
butchered thing.
Well, That Slaughterhouse Was Nice

I live in red velvet cake. Why I do declare, I must have found the right wardrobe door to step through. Oh he has no legs, but "I can fly!" Almost like my favorite blanket to picnic over. Fresh meat, PB & J make for a great, stale banqueting table. In the meadow, I must have found perfect, sterile fluorescent lighting. Is that supposed to be fresh air? In cluttered stillness a door got bigger. Except it was too well decorated. No one lives here. Now can we eat?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Last Week

Madeleine Avirov

Last week was very full. We read some Borges ("The Theologians"--with its dire implications for [mis]interpretation) and some Bonhoeffer (on polyphony, from Letters and Papers from Prison). We learned a bit about the work of Steve Roden. And we were visited by the L.A. artist Madeleine Avirov, who showed us slides of several of her paintings, and how her work--or her work-making practice--finds grounding in poetry. She wrote about it here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Two Exquisite Corpses

Some students this week gave a presentation on Frank O'Hara, and his connections to the painter Robert Motherwell. During the presentation, the class was split in two, and each half made a poem. The first student wrote a line, passed it to his/her neighbor, who added a second line. This student then passed it on to the next student, who added a line. And so on. The results are below.

A Girl & No Jazz

A girl & no jazz is like static at midnight:
go shopping, pack a bag, feed the dog, book a flight;
be a man, have a plan, Afghanistan, be polite.
Invite darkness, like a dentist drill, harsh screaming,
beaming, beaming--as if darkness doesn't exist
and if with a sip of Coke the world fades away in a mist.
But as with any magic, illusions are just lights on a list
like boats on a mist.
And then we kissed (again).


I Woke Up Naked

I woke up naked and stubbed my toe.
A curse almost rolled off my tongue, it was low.
The clock went slower, slowest now, slow
As I drank and drank--How much? I don't know.

Refractions through the glass--drink deep, drink low
Down to the last of the night, in the sunrise glow
And drown. The morning's always the first to go,
Followed by afternoon's sickening glow.

You end up discovering more than you should know.
The cuss I am, you know.